When David Yen takes the stage June 15 at the IDC Cloud Leadership Forum, he will tout Juniper Networks' "Project Stratus" as the best strategy for revamping the networking infrastructure in data centers.
In an interview with eWEEK before his presentation, Yen, executive vice president and general manager of Juniper's Fabric and Switching Technologies Business Group, said that Juniper's initiative-which calls for collapsing the data center network infrastructure from three tiers into one, and is based on automation and virtualization-makes the most sense in a world where businesses are embarking on a path to cloud computing environments.
"We are talking about a single, logical switch for the data center network," Yen said. "A single fabric that provides any-to-any connectivity, is flat, lossless and delivers very low latency."
Over the past couple of years, there's been a lot of changes in servers, storage and security devices, and virtualization technology has advanced, he said. All the while, the networking infrastructure has pretty much stayed the same.
"And yet, networking is the key [to the ongoing data center transformation]," Yen said.
Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with The Yankee Group, agreed. In a blog post May 18, Kerravala said networking vendors are beginning to address the issue.
"In essence, the network will be the backplane of the virtual computer and the network needs to deliver traffic as fast as possible with minimum latency and packet loss," he said in the blog. "Today's traditional layer 3, multi-tiered data center networks were never meant for this kind of traffic, causing organizations to have to re-evaluate their networks needs."
That is changing. Juniper announced its Project Stratus initiative in February 2009, and officials have been talking about it since. In May, the company unveiled a host of hardware, software and services offerings that will help enterprises flatten their networking infrastructures from three to two tiers, a key step in realizing the goal of Project Stratus.
The ability to collapse it more, to one tier, will come in early 2011, Yen said, adding that Juniper is on schedule to make that happen.
Juniper's Project Stratus is one of a growing number of strategies being put forth by networking vendors to deal with the virtual data center. Cisco Systems has answered with its all-in-one infrastructure offering, the UCS (Unified Computing System), while Brocade Communications Systems, Force10, Enterasys and others also have unveiled initiatives.
Also out there is Hewlett-Packard, which has bulked up its ProCurve networking business with the acquisition of 3Com.
Yankee Group's Kerravala said in an interview that this is a particularly interesting time in the networking space, which until recently had been fairly uniform in its offerings. Now vendors are looking to address the same issues, but are taking different paths, which will give businesses a number of options.
Juniper's vision is an interesting one, Kerravala said, but "what it needs now is filling in. It needs some details."
Juniper is differentiating itself by moving in a different direction than Cisco, whose UCS is more of a proprietary platform, and playing to its networking strengths, he said.
The opportunity is there for Juniper, Kerravala said. The company just needs to take advantage of it.
Yen said Juniper officials are talking with many customers to get a good feel for their needs, but will be cautious in the public statements they make regarding Project Stratus. The initiative is a long-term one, and there's no need to make quick headlines with bold statements, he said.
However, perception can be important. Kerravala said that given its product launch June 11, Brocade appears to be ahead of Juniper right now.
That said, Juniper is finding strong interest among customers, Yen said.
"You can really feel that there is an anxiousness, an eagerness to find a new kind of data center network," he said.